Stormers lock Moerat chosen to lead Junior Boks to World Champs

Stormers lock Salmaan Moerat has been chosen to lead the Junior Springboks efforts from the front at the World Rugby U20 Championships in France. Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

Salmaan Moerat has been chosen as captain of the Junior Springbok squad for the World Rugby U20 Championship in France from 30 May to 17 June.

The 20-year-old Stormers lock is one of seven players in coach Chean Roux's squad who also participated in last year's tournament held in Georgia -- where the Junior Springboks finished third.

"Salmaan is a born leader," said Roux in an SA Rugby press release. "He led the Western Province U18 Coca-Cola Craven Week team and the SA Schools team, and he did so with distinction.

"He has been equally influential at our training camps since the squad gathered in February, and all of the players have immense respect for him, so he was the natural choice as the captain."

Further to Moerat's experience of captaining a South African national side, he will also have the support of fellow Stormers player Damian Willemse (who attended one of the Springbok alignment camps in April), as well as Wandisile Simelane, Muller Uys, Gianni Lombard, Rewan Kruger and Daniel Jooste with their second-tournament experience.

"This is a talented squad with solid international experience, and we are confident in their abilities," said Roux of his squad which posts 22 players with past junior international experience (SA Schools and SA Schools A).

That number includes Muller du Plessis, the utility back who only finished school last year but has already featured for the Springbok Sevens team on the World Rugby Sevens Series.

Roux settled on his final squad after two warm-up matches in April against Georgia in Stellenbosch (won 55-14 and 48-23), and will now do his prepare for the tournament proper during a UK tour featuring games against Scotland (this Friday, 4 May), Wales (Tuesday, 8 May), and England on Friday next week.

"We had to make a few tough calls, especially after the matches against Georgia [who they will face in their opening pool match in France], but we believe we have a squad worthy of competing against the best U20 teams in the world.

"One can never underestimate the value of playing international rugby at any level, so we are pleased that most of the players have worn the green and gold before for both the Junior Springboks and the SA Schools sides."

Since the world Under-19 and Under-21 tournaments were combined in 2008, the Junior Springboks have won it only once -- at home in 2012. Defending champions New Zealand have been the dominant force (as their seniors have been) with six wins while England boast three and they will undoubtedly be the teams to beat in France.

Of course, they will first have to emerge unscathed from Pool C. As mentioned, they will meet Georgia in their opening pool match on Wednesday 30 May, and then take on Ireland on Sunday, 3 June, and France on Thursday, 7 June in the pool stages.

Junior Springbok squad for the World Rugby U20 Championship (in alphabetical order):

Zak Burger - Cell C Sharks, scrumhalf

Ben-Jason Dixon - DHL Western Province, lock

Lubabalo Dobela - Toyota Free State, flyhalf

Muller du Plessis - Cell C Sharks, utility back

Schalk Erasmus - DHL Western Province, hooker

Tyrone Green - Xerox Golden Lions, wing

Jack Hart - Xerox Golden Lions, scrumhalf

Lyle Hendricks - DHL Western Province, centre

Daniel Jooste* - DHL Western Province, Hooker

Cohen Kiewit - Xerox Golden Lions, prop

Rewan Kruger* - Toyota Free State, scrumhalf

Gianni Lombard* - Xerox Golden Lions, fullback

Nathan McBeth - Xerox Golden Lions, prop

Salmaan Moerat (capt)* - DHL Western Province, lock

Sihle Njezula - DHL Western Province, wing

Ruan Nortje - Vodacom Blue Bulls, lock

Asenathi Ntlabakanye - Xerox Golden Lions, prop

Rikus Pretorius - DHL Western Province, Centre

Manuel Rass - Xerox Golden Lions, centre

Sazi Sandi - DHL Western Province, Prop

Dian Schoonees - Xerox Golden Lions, looseforward

Wandisile Simelane* - Xerox Golden Lions, centre

PJ Steenkamp - Xerox Golden Lions, looseforward

Alulutho Tshakweni - Eastern Province, prop

Muller Uys* - DHL Western Province, looseforward

Tiaan van der Merwe - Xerox Golden Lions, Prop

Ruan Vermaak - Xerox Golden Lions, lock

Damian Willemse* - DHL Western Province, flyhalf

*denotes 2017 World Rugby U20 Championship player